- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 9, 2021

Homeland Security announced plans Thursday to write new regulations that would ban the kind of family separations at the border that took place under the Trump administration’s zero tolerance border policy.

The department published an official notice seeking the public’s ideas about how to proceed, which is the first step to writing the rules, which DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said are intended to stop a repeat of the Trump-era situation. Estimates suggest 5,000 families were separated under the policy.

“I have met with separated families and heard firsthand of the immense trauma they have suffered. We have an obligation to reunite separated families and ensure this cruel practice never happens again,” said Mr. Mayorkas.

He said his intent is to stop separations done “as a means to deter migration.” That would still leave separations done because of an illness to a parent, or because of a parent’s criminal record or danger to children.

Drawing the line between those instances could be tricky. The notice seeking public comments said the goal will be to “minimize” separations.

“The Task Force welcomes thoughts on the causes of family separations that occurred incident to the Zero-Tolerance policy as well as policies, procedures, or regulations that may minimize the separation of migrant parents and legal guardians and children entering the United States, consistent with law,” the notice said.

Mass family separations were a result of the zero tolerance policy, which was the Trump administration’s response to the migrant caravans of Central American families that surged to the border in 2018.

Previously, parents with children would have been caught and quickly ousted or released. The Trump administration was seeking a stronger deterrent, so it decided to prosecute the parents for illegal entry, a misdemeanor.

There are no family detention facilities in federal prisons, so when the parents were prosecuted, their children were removed from their custody and placed into government-run shelters. But the administration had no system in place to reunite the families once the parents’ sentences were completed, usually in just a few days.

Documents released later suggest administration officials saw the separations themselves as part of a deterrent to migrants coming.

As mass separations sparked a furious public outcry, President Trump in June 2018 ended the practice. And a federal judge ordered the government to work to reunite the families. Three years later, that process is still ongoing.

Mr. Mayorkas said the new regulations are intended to create a permanent barrier to any future administration trying to revive the practice.

The Biden administration is also negotiating payments to illegal immigrant families who were snared by the Trump policy.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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